Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Yoga at the University

by Susi Stefanini

“Is it true that by practicing yoga you can live without eating?” “A famous soccer player once said that power without control is nothing. Has this something to do with yoga?” “Can inverted postures help improve my memory?” Such kinds of questions are coming like waves in an ocean from a one hundred student class of the University of Pavia, Faculty of Physical Education.

This seems to be a good starting point to begin to introduce these bright students in their twenties to the Himalayan Yoga Tradition. Some slides illustrating the yoga sheaths follow to make them conscious that yoga practice is not just an exercise involving the body, and their attention becomes more focused. A real moment of complete silence in the class is experienced when they hear that yoga is a useful tool to overcome traumas, as for example, in the case of soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

On their young faces the eyes are beaming with curiosity: “What can yoga do for them?”, “Can it help to overcome my anxious mind?”

No more questions now, it is time for the mat. Diaphragmatic breathing in shavasana and makarasana is not easy, but they learn quickly. Occasionally a few laughs for a good joke, but “Please keep your concentration”. Postures to test first the flexibility of the mind and then the body’s one. And they try and try, and ask to be checked.

They agree that the breath is “the great unknown“. None of them knows how many breaths you can take in one minute. Little by little their hands on the belly start moving rhythmically up and down and they are ready for relaxation.

It seemed as if this was impossible, but now they are still! Coming to the end of our session here we are in the sitting posture. It is not so bad, “Even if my back is hurting I feel relaxed inside”.

And (what a blessing!) the sacred sound of Om vibrates, here with a little bit of shyness, there more loudly.

It is done! And now here I am, watching the students leaving the big gym. My silent prayer for them: “May the Masters of the Himalayas send you a drop of honey in the form of sadhana. May you be happy”.


On April 19th Susi Stefanini and Daniele Belloni were invited to propose a Yoga class to the students of the University of Pavia, Faculty of Physical Education, by Professor Luciano Bernardi. Here you can read a brief biography of Professor Bernardi.

Luciano Bernardi, MD, is a professor of Internal Medicine at Policlinico S.Matteo, Pavia, Italy, and teaches Sports Medicine at the Faculty of Physical Education at the University of Pavia. His main research interests focus on the integrated control mechanisms of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. In this context he has done extensive research work on the physiological effects and clinical applications of Yoga in relevant diseases like heart failure, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and diabetes. He also studied the effects of special respiratory adaptations during exposure to high altitude hypoxia, taking part or leading seven high altitude stages, in the Himalayas and in the Andes, and during simulated experiments in hypobaric chambers. He also studied the cardio-respiratory effects of listening to music, praying and chanting. His work is published in more than 180 research articles appearing in peer-review journals. He practices Yoga and he is amateur luthier.

Susi Stefanini and Daniele Belloni have a center in Cremona, Italy. We invite you to visit their website http://www.spazioshanti.com/